11 Healthy Habits for an Easier Morning
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Spring is here (or on its way for those of us still enduring the remnants off Old Man Winter). Spring signals new beginnings and fresh starts. Accordingly, its probably not a bad time to look back and reflect on our New Year’s resolutions and goals for the year. Where do you stand? Even if you fell off the band wagon, it’s never too late to regroup and get back on the continuous journey of personal wellness.
This year. I set a motto of Less is More. It’s not a “resolution” in the traditional sense that I can measure it and reach a tangible date of completion. It’s more of a guiding principle.
As a family, we’ve been implementing this motto in our mornings. We try not to cram too much into our mornings, particularly once the boys wake up. Sometimes we wake up before the boys to accomplish specific tasks. But once the boys are awake, we generally take a slower approach to the morning and focus on breakfast, a little bit of play while M and I get ready for work, and getting out the door to school.
Living in the city and walking to work, we have reasonable and predictable commutes allowing us to catch a later start to our mornings. We often don’t set alarms, which has been amazing since we made this change. While not everyone lives in the city and walks to work, there are several changes we’ve made that just about anyone can apply to their mornings to help make them a little less stressful.
11 Healthy Habits for Easier Mornings
Some of the habits start the night before in preparation for the next day.
Showering at Night ~ Not having to shower or dry my hair saves so much time in the morning. If this works for you, it’s pretty much a no-brainer. This is especially helpful because our boys are young and not self-sufficient once they are out of bed. It’s tough to plan a calm morning not knowing exactly when the boys will roll out of bed and need my attention (which hopefully isn’t while I’m in the shower).
Later Bedtimes for the Boys ~ Our boys are night owls and sleep in a bit. When they go to bed later, we have a bit more time in the morning to get ready before they wake up. As a bonus, this also gives us more time to play with the boys in the evening. We don’t get home from work and daycare until about 6 pm, so an early bedtime would leave little time for dinner and quality time together. This may not be as helpful if your children are early risers no matter what time they go to sleep. But if you feel rushed in evening and in the mornings, it’s worth a shot.
Most changes we’ve made impact our mornings specifically.
Few Minutes of Morning Playtime or Screen Time ~ Not rushing our boys to wake up and immediately follow a tight schedule to get out the door has resulted in far fewer morning meltdowns (for us and for them). We used to rile the boys awake and then pressure them to get ready quickly. Leaving time for some independent play or a few minutes of screen time results in a slightly later start to our work days. But it helps de-stress our mornings and is well worth the small chunk of time we’ve sacrificed from our days at our desks.
Some might judge screen time. It has such a negative connotation. Obviously parking children in front of cartoons for hours on end isn’t admirable. But our boys typically watch YouTube videos about planes and fighter jets, a few minutes of a favorite movie, or highlights from the previous night’s sports game. (We record many of them so the boys can watch the end of games they miss after bedtime.) The videos and screen time always inspire subsequent play building the planes they see, reenacting the movies, or pretending to be the professional athletes they just watched on television.
Inspired by the hockey game he watched, T drew this hockey rink and built a goal with blocks.
Chore List & Sticker Chart ~ Create a list of morning chores to be completed and reward successful completion with stickers. Our reward chart requires 30 stickers, after which the boys can choose a reward. This tool proves helpful for two reasons.
The positive reinforcement of good behavior helps encourage the boys to move through the morning more fluidly and do what they’re able to do themselves in order to get out the door. Of course, they love the rewards.
More importantly, though, the chore list sets expectations and doesn’t make me the “bad guy” all the time. Instead of being the morning drill sergeant barking out orders, I simply remind them that the chore list tells them what they need to do. It’s the same each day, there are no surprises, and they don’t feel like I’m “making arbitrary rules” (even though we both know I did make the chore chart).
Healthy Breakfast ~ I love breakfast and have always made this meal a priority. I also know how healthy and important it is for the boys not only for development but also to keep the morning for spiraling out of control with hungry kiddos.
A healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be hard. We typically offer the boys scrambled eggs or leftover dinner from the night before (cooked chicken and skirt steak are some of our favorites). Some weeks, I make these egg muffins at the beginning of the week to have in the fridge for quick and filling, healthy breakfasts, as well. We put a bowl of cut up fresh fruit (generally cleaned and chopped earlier in the week) or applesauce next to them and let them eat what they want. When we get “desperate,” our boys will eat just about anything if we put it in a tortilla, so that’s a trick we keep in our back pocket.
Further, if they don’t eat at home, they get breakfast at school. We used to be more forceful about breakfast, but we’ve since eased up. 4 out of 5 days a week the boys eat plenty. But the one day when they don’t feel like eating, we stopped fighting.
Take a Toy to Daycare ~ Having a comfort item to grab when we head out the door not only makes departure easier (they aren’t so sad to leave home) but also facilitates drop off. The boys love their school but definitely have days when they don’t want us to leave.
Use Dry Shampoo ~ Dry shampoo isn’t such a bad thing for our hair allowing us to wash it (and strip the natural oils from it) less often. But washing hair less often does wonders for easier mornings. Showers are faster. There’s no wet hair to dry and style. 30 seconds and my hair is back to beautiful (or however it’s feeling like looking that day).
A while back, I did a whole experiment on the best dry shampoos and wrote a separate piece about mistakes many people make when using dry shampoo. Be sure to check it out. It’s basically a beginner’s complete guide to using dry shampoo. If you are new to dry shampoo, I think you’ll find you love it if you give it a try!
Give the Boys Vitamins ~ Sometimes the boys wake up on the wrong side of the bed. (Don’t we all have those days.) Even when they’re a little grumpy or groggy, offering up two Nature Made kids gummy vitamins always rights the ship. I think they treat it like candy. But no matter why it brightens their spirits, it’s pretty fool-proof in our house and I’ll take it!
The boys love the gummies, so we opt for these ones. Along with the iron supplement I take, they’re a quick pick up from the Walmart near my office when we’re running low on ‘breakfast candy’ for the boys.
Beyond calming the boys, we appreciate that the daily vitamin helps ensure they get their daily boost of vitamins and minerals. So much of staying happy and healthy is all about the little things we do each day. Also, Nature Made offers additional ideas about daily boosts that you can check out for more ideas to augment your everyday wellness routine.
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Let the Boys Dress Themselves – Sometimes they want to wear something ridiculous, like their pajamas. (See how T’s wearing his pajamas and shoes above? This was one of those days.) Most days, he wears all of his clothes backwards. As long as his clothes are clean, we let him choose and move on.
No Scheduled Work Meetings Before 9:30 am ~ We don’t always have control over this. But we try not to schedule early work meetings. While we aim to get out of the house by a certain time, not having meetings or calls with others limits the stress of getting to work by a specific time. If the morning tailspins, it’s not the end of the world and we haven’t impacted anyone else in our delayed arrival.
I often have colleagues scheduling meetings on my calendar without inquiring (which is totally fine and saves everyone a lot of time bouncing availability emails back and forth). To prevent others from scheduling meetings too early, I have a recurring daily calendar event that blocks out an hour to take my boys to school. It’s really a necessity more than anything because I need time away from my computer to drop them off. But don’t be afraid to schedule time on you calendar for drop offs, a personal break or other meaningful commitment around your work schedule to help make days proceed more smoothly.
Return Home After Dropping the Boys at School ~ I’ve seriously saved the best for last. This may not work for everyone, but our apartment sits squarely between school and my office. (I also work from home a lot which makes this an even easier equation.) But even on days when I’m headed into my office, M and I typically get the boys ready and he heads off to work.
I drop the boys at school and then return home to pack my work bag and get dressed for the day. Not having my boys around while I’m putting on makeup, deciding what to wear and getting dressed, and doing the final double checks to make sure I have everything is monumentally easier! If you can make this work, I definitely recommend it. Beyond being logistically easier, I love the peace and quiet time to myself to get my work day started.
Let’s be real, too. Our mornings are not always perfect. Just this morning, I walked a screaming (seemingly possessed) three year old to school down a very busy sidewalk as he threw a monster tantrum. Another lovely mom turned to me and told me she dealt with the exact same thing earlier that morning. It happens to the best of us.
While we’ll never achieve perfection, having some tricks up our sleeve to give us a better shot of a peaceful and mild morning never hurts. Every family is different, so what works for you family to get a smooth start to the day?
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